Black and White

On 48th floor, Lisbeth's Special Weapon Shop stood next to a waterwheel that created tranquil noises as it turned lazily in tune with the game's BGM.

I guess that's why this place cost so much. Orion thought as a green cursor instead of his regular orange one floated on top of his head. Perfect place to relax and enjoy the view.

Over the past few weeks after meeting each other, Orion and Lisbeth exchanged mails, at first it was about weapons and rare resources but as time went on their conversation had turned to something that resembled idle chatter.

Orion had come to this shop after receiving a mail from Lisbeth that she had bought her new store and wanted him to visit her store when he had a chance.

As he approached the shop with a bottle in his hands, he could hear the sound of two female voices coming from the shop.

"Like I said Liz, you should change your hair color to pink, it will suit you, now sorry to leave so quickly but I got to be at a meeting."

"Asuna I don't know-"

"Think about it." A long brown haired female player with matching eye color spoke as she opened the door, she was dressed in bright white but with small stripes of red running down her sides.

She's a beauty... wait isn't that the same color of stripes on Kuradeel?

Orion approached the blonde player with his polite smile drawn on his face. "Excuse me, yes hello there Miss. I recognize your guild color but not the name. Could be so kind and tell me what it is?"

"The Knights of the Blood" The blonde player responded back, her tone of voice conveying a surprise in that the player in front of him did not know anything about her guild.

"Ah thank you, much appreciated!" Orion shouted to the golden haired warrior as she walked past him without giving him another look.

Knights of the Blood... isn't that a clearing guild? He pondered about its significance for a moment before dismissing the idea from his head as he opened the door.

With the ringing of bells announcing his arrival, he entered the shop surveyed the shop and found it a mess, everywhere in the shop there were various ores, bars and weapons scattered in random places.

It is as if a small tornado had swept the store, Orion mused as he stepped on a rapier and broke it in without even realizing. I should drop by later and help clean this mess up before someone accidently dies by kicking a sword on the ground.

Lisbeth, unaware of her visitor or his latest crime committed in her store, was attempting to organize some of the items in the shop and stacking them in an orderly fashion.

"Hey Lisbeth!" Orion shouted across the Lisbeth. "I was just stuck in a game world created by a mad scientist and I happened to be in the neighborhood!"

"With a bottle of alcohol in your hand?" Lisbeth wearing her brown blacksmithing apron raised one of her eyebrows skeptically, as she stopped cleaning and turned to face him.

"Oh no no no!" Orion spoke while waving his index finger back and forth. "Due to the nature of the game, this is not a mere wine but a really great tasting grape juice with absolutely no alcohol."

After sitting down on a nearby table cluttered with junk, Orion uncorked the bottle and poured the contents of the bottle into the two glass cups he brought out of his inventory.

"You carry cups in your inventory?"

"Doesn't everyone?" Orion replied raising his own eyebrow. "Anyways that is beside the point. Here have a sip and tell me your thoughts." Orion handed Lisbeth one of the cups while he took the other.

"For this delicious grape juice!" Orion toasted to himself as he and Lisbeth each took a sip.

"Wow, this is really good stuff, where did you get it?" Lisbeth asked as she took another gulp.

"Well you see... there was this grape monster on the 34th floor... and when I slashed it with my dagger, it bled some dark liquid, and being a sucker for recycling, I took some of his blood into the bottle as he bled to death-"

"You are making me drink monster blood!?" Lisbeth yelled in fury as she slammed the cup down to the table.

Orion burst out laughing "Ha-ha you should see the look on your face Lisbeth. No, no the wine isn't from a big 'grape' monster, I made it from tiny regular size grapes."

Lisbeth flared up in mix of anger and embarrassment and glared silently at Orion.

Realizing that he may have crossed the line, Orion studied his right boot as if it was the most fascinating item in the world.

After a few moments of awkward silence Orion spoke cautiously, desperately trying to change the subject. "So uh... who was the customer that was in here before I was?"

"You mean Asuna? She's a friend... wait you don't know who she is!?" Lisbeth's tone returned to normal much to Orion relief.

"Should I know her?"

"Of course she is the sub leader of the Knights of the Blood!"

"Ooohhh fancy."

"She's a great person Orion, anyways what about you and Sanitator, how are the two of you doing?"

"Well, I haven't been really up to anything these last few weeks just loitering around hunting ground and sightseeing." He explained as and took another sip from the grape juice before continuing.

"But Sanitator seems to be doing rather well. In fact just yesterday he told me that he might be close to becoming a beast master."

"A Beast master? That's great!"

"Details are sketchy but I promise will tell you as when I hear from him next time."

Afterwards the conversation drifted between various subjects and the two chatted happily until a message arrived to Orion.

'We have a problem, come immediately, PoH wants to talk to you.' XaXa

Orion's face hardened and his eyes became dull and void of any emotion. "Sorry Lisbeth but something urgent came up, I will be back later."

"This is about work isn't it?" Lisbeth said after noticing the facial changes on Orion.

Orion's eyes snapped back to its previous state, but one filled with confusion. "How did you know?" he asked. How much does she know?

Lisbeth simply smiled with a knowing look and opened the door for Orion. "Don't worry I will be keeping the 'wine' safe until you come back."

"I am going to hold you to that" Orion said as he hastily stepped through the door but stopped for a moment before heading out. "By the way Lisbeth, I agree with your friend. You would look great with pink hair."


Arriving on the 43rd floor minutes later, at entrance of the Laughing Coffin's headquarters, a castle that looked as if it had jumped straight out of a fairy tale book. Orion pounded the solid wooden oak door and after a short pause, the door opened slowly and quietly.

"Expecting someone?" Orion spoke sheepishly as he pointed towards the dozen throwing knives pointed directly at him.

"Welcome to the laughing coffin's headquarters, don't just stand there come in, we are expecting other company." XaXa greeted Orion and gestured with his hand, next to XaXa was his ever faithful friend Johnny Black, who stood only a few paces away tinkering with his knife.

As Orion walked past the door, he saw a large rectangular shaped hall filled with busy orange players preparing for something and an empty wooden throne at the far end of the hall.

"This is nice but I am rather busy. You said PoH wanted to see me, so where is he?"

"As his 'bitch' I wouldn't know where the boss is right now but he's away on business."

Somebody is holding a grudge. "Alright Pink eyes, why am I really here then? I was just having a wonderful time drinking grape juice with a friend."

"To earn your pay of course."

"What pay?"

"Remember, how we asked you to remove the DDA's guild leader? Well it worked for a while but after clearing group still managed to rally around the black swordsman. "

"You mean you failed to kill him? Ha! what a shame that you couldn't kill a beater by yourself. Orion spoke with the most arrogant voice he could muster before continuing.

"By the way, if you really do remember our agreement, I still haven't been given the information. In fact I won't do anything until you can tell me the whereabouts of the black swordsman, who I believe has a good chance of having what I want."

"You are in luck then!" Johnny shouted across the Hall as he continued to play around with his knife. "Hehehe, the black swordsman, is part of the crusade that will be arriving to our base within minutes at midnight."

"What?"

"Surprised Orion? XaXa smirked, unable to hide his delight of shocking Orion.

"Shouldn't you guys be packing and getting ready to escape?" Orion asked, unable to understand why they would be so stupid.

"So we can avoid winning? No, we can win this and with the extra help, that's you in case you haven't noticed, it will be a child's play."

"And just when did I sign up for this!?" Orion spoke with his anger barely kept in check as his hands reached for his weapons.

*Boom* The entrance door shook violently, beyond it Orion could hear movements of various boots shuffling about and the sound of weapons being drawn.

"Just now."

*Sigh* "Do I have a choice?" Orion spoke as he stepped a few paces away from the entrance.

"No." XaXa replied with a polite smile.

A second later the door flew off and armed players spilled into the hall.


"CHARGEEEE!" A man clad in crimson plate armor screamed at the top of his lungs as he sprinted through the broken door followed by at least couple dozen players behind his back.

Idiot Orion thought as half dozen knives flew towards the crimson player who had just made a target of himself.

*Ping! Ping! Ping!* All six blades were deflected by the warrior's shield as he continued to bark out orders.

"Or not" Orion murmured. Turning his attention back to the rest of the fight that was unfolding before his eyes, Orion saw various poisoned knives landing on their mark but with no visible effect. Of course! They must have used antidote crystals before marching in.

"Orion!" A voice screamed for his his attention. "Stop standing there watching, we have guests!" XaXa yelled while fighting with a swordsman dressed fully in black.

Orion casually dismissing XaXa's demand to mingle with the guests, Orion quickly opened his inventory. Moments later a blue teleporting crystal materialized in his hands.

"Sorry XaXa but this isn't my fight, but good luck! I hope you make it out alive! Teleport Rindaasu!"

Orion with a smug smile on his face waited for the teleportation to take effect, but his view of the battle remained.

"Teleport Rindaasu...?" Orion repeated the words until he noticed that a rapier had pierced through his crystal, rendering it useless.

Focusing his attention back to the battlefield, he saw the same blonde haired girl that he had seen only hours ago, standing right in front of him holding the rapier that must have been used to pierce his escape plan.

"You!" Asuna said with a look of disbelief and anger as he recognized the stranger.

"And you!" Orion replied back cheerfully with a smile, while his mind swirled around trying to figure out another escape route.

Asuna not amused at Orion's attempt to buy extra time responded violently in the form of Flashing Penetrator a charging sword skill narrowly missed Orion but destroyed his outer brown cloak.

"Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed." Orion jested as he drew his [Ivory Anelace] and began to block or parry the hail of attacks she launched at him.

"Listen, why don't you go and help your friends while I make a quick get away?" Orion spoke after dodging another attack and pointed at raiders who were slowly being pushed back Orange players and were about to be scattered.

Asuna remained silent as her attacks became faster and merciless. Orion realizing that his opponent wasn't planning on leaving began scheming on how he could get away.

Seconds later when Asuna's sword glowed green as Star Splash, an eight-hit combo attack became imminent, he knew what to do.

Orion instead of blocking the attack side stepped the barrage and slid past her.

Smiling and knowing that Asuna would be unable to do anything until she finished the attack, Orion ran his dagger through her chest and dropped her health considerably.

Momentarily buying himself some time as Asuna used healing crystals, Orion signalled with his left arm to two Coffin members, who had just finished dispatching their own opponent.

Noticing his signal and seeing the opportunity to do a little bit more mayhem, the two rushed with their face bright with all the thought of all the fun they were about to have.

Orion only too happy to let the two of them take over, calmly stepped away from the duel and paced himself towards the broken door in mist of the chaotic battle.

After taking a few dozen steps, Orion looked over his shoulder to see if the two were still managing to delay the whitely clad player before they were slaughtered by Lisbeth's friend. But what he saw next was unimaginable.

A lone player dressed in black, the very same player who was battling XaXa in the beginning of the skirmish, jumped straight into the two attackers, knocking one of them out with his momentum.

The two orange players seeing a new threat had only moments to react. One managed to shout a short scream before his heart was pierced through by the dark blade and the other assailant joined his friend shortly after when his head was decapitated in a single stroke. Both of them disintegrated within seconds after their fatal blow.

The Black swordsman who Orion assumed to be Kirito, appearing unconcerned about the two people he slaughtered moments before, crouched next to his female friend then scanned the battlefield as if he was looking for someone.

He better not be looking for me! Alright Orion time to walk away a little bit faster. Orion doubled his pace as he tried to avoid the monster's gaze behind him.

Unfortunately, for Orion escape was becoming more and more difficult as the Orange line was gradually shrinking.

While he was busy trying to escape, the orange players who despite the initial advantage by having no qualm about killing their opponents were pushed back by the level difference, with many being killed as they attempted to run. A general retreat of orange players that closed off various escape routes Orion had mentally planned out earlier. Forced to abandon the fastest way to escape, he spotted an exit on the corner of his eyes guarded by no one with sheer luck.

Seeing his chance, Orion quickly turned to only exit only to come face to face with the Black Swordsman, who stood several paces away with a blank face. Orion curious at what he saw, stopped in his tracks as he stared into the unknown, while ignoring small sane voice inside his mind that screamed at him to run, and was struck by what he saw inside those eyes.

It's killer's cold and calculating eye, one that just snapped out of control.

Before he could decide on his next course of action, another part of his brain screamed at him.

Wait that's him! He has the stone! Orion realized then another voice spoke. But it is getting to dangerous. I have to leave right now! Shit shit shit!

The Black swordsman, unaware of Orion's mental dilemma charged towards him as his sword glowed blue for a split second before the sword skill Rage Spike was casted.

Orion sidestepped the charge and saw Kritio flying right past him.

Unable to resist landing a cheap shot, Orion threw his throwing knife at Kirito's back and watched in amazement as the swordsman managed to weapon block and deflect the dagger with his sword only moments after finishing his skill.

What? That's just not possible, no one is that fast. No longer confident that he could easily best his opponent in combat, Orion quickly equipped his parrying dagger and looked around to see if there was any other possible escape route that still remained.

"It's no use, give up." Kirito spoke arrogantly or so Orion thought, as if he was reading Orion's mind. "Surrender, you won't make it to the exit and you are being surrounded as we speak."

Orion took a moment to compose himself and brought out his best lunatic voice. "HAHAHAHAHA but Black swordsman-sama if I surrender how shall I ever escape this-"

Without waiting for Orion to finish taunting him, Kirito charged once more with the sword skill Sonic Leap.

Recognizing that he would not be able to dodge this attack, Orion responded with a charge of his own but without any sword skills, to avoid being left vulnerable afterwards.

As the distance between the two grew smaller, Orion felt time slow to a crawl as he saw the black blade arcing its way towards his body.

In response Orion lifted his left hand and blocked the blade with his parrying dagger, and held it there while his right hand sent his Anelace straight to his opponent's heart that was left defenceless.

Confident that the Kritio would not be able to block his strike Orion smiled. This won't kill you but, at least I will get past you to sweet freedom... and as added bonus it will hurt like hell.

Orion took a fraction of a second to look at the Black swordsman's eyes, anticipating panic and confusion to be present instead what he saw to his own surprise was curiosity and amusement.

In a flash, Kirito had drawn a second blade with his other hand that parried Orion's thrust and countered it with a swipe of its own.

Orion surprised by the second sword was a second too late and the blade sliced through his shoulder as he attempted to dive to the right.

Losing his balance, Orion crash landed and skidded across the floor, knocking down several coffin and raider members alike. After a short second to get his bearings, Orion quickly sprang back to his feet and tried to ready his weapons, but immediately stopped after seeing that there were dozens of weapons pointed directly at his face.

As Orion looked at wielders of these weapons it was evident that none were from the laughing coffin and that they weren't exactly pleased with Orion to just let him walk away.

"Good work Kirito-Kun! " The man in red, the same man who had managed to deflect all those daggers at the start of the skirmish, exclaimed with a grin. Who was now only carrying a single blade much to Orion's confusion

"And you..." The old man pointed to Orion. "you must be PoH. The leader of the laughing coffin!"


A/N

11/2 Minor fixes